The Paradox of Weakness
Longtime readers of this blog who have great memories may remember that one post told the story of Father Antoni Betszta-Barowski, a Polish martyr during the time of the Nazi occupation of Poland, and the effect of his martyrdom on the region he was from. It is an amazing story.
I learned the story from Father Pavel Rytel-Andrianek who had come to our little parish church in Wiggins, Colorado. His sermon at Mass was on Father Antoni. Mom and I spoke to Father after Mass, and we corresponded for a time.
Wanting to know anything I could find about Pope Francis, I came upon an article by Fox News that was primarily quotes from Father Pavel who is now teaching in Rome at the Pontifical Holy Cross University and staying at the same residence that Cardinal Bergoglio stayed at before the Conclave.
Other articles said that the Pope returned to the residence to pay his bill and pick up his bags. Father Pavel said that was not the reason he returned because anyone could have carried out those duties for him. He returned to thank the staff at the residence, which he did talking to each one individually and by name. He was in no rush. Even during this most recent stay at the residence, when the Cardinal needed to get to the Vatican, he did so by walking out and hailing a taxi. He never sought special privileges that were his for the asking: simplicity for sure, but there is a depth of being behind that simplicity.
Pope Francis’ sermon at his Inaugural Mass also had a simplicity and depth. I think that his statement made specifically to himself as possessing the power of the papacy and to the other people of power at the Mass gave his thesis for the entire sermon. He said that authentic power is found in service and that service culminates on the cross.
The Holy Father showed that we all possess power, first over ourselves, but extending to all others in the way that we treat people and the rest of God’s creation. He spoke beautifully of St. Joseph’s power, derived from the authority he was entrusted with over the Holy Family. And he spoke of the fruit of well-exercised power that will be made manifest in the elect at the Last Judgment. We have used our power well when, standing before Christ, we are able to show that we have practiced the corporal works of mercy because each of those acts was done not just to the poorest, the weakest, the least important, but to Jesus Himself.
Those who receive the benefits of the those practicing the corporal works, those that Mother Teresa called the poorest of the poor, are the living embodiment of Christ on the cross. Only when our service is such that it culminates by placing us on the cross – a total giving of self – are we truly serving those who are, in reality, the very strength of society for they are Jesus in our midst. The weakest are the strongest and enable us to turn our power into something authentic.
God bless Pope Francis.
Jezu, ufam Tobie.